Happiness at Home

I’ve read that finding happiness in life can be a matter of lowering expectations.

I haven’t got much lower I can go with that, so has anyone else got any ideas?

Don’t Look a Gift Horse in the Price Tag


My parents maintained that Santa Claus came each year when my siblings and I were young. We wrote letters to him and enjoyed opening surprise presents that magically appeared between the time we finally got to sleep Christmas Eve and the time my lazy parents finally crawled out of bed Christmas morning.

The Christmas Spirit was, to me, that happy surprise. I knew I wanted to share the feeling with my children.

“Time to write a letter to Santa,” I told my oldest when he was able to understand asking and letter-writing. Together, we crafted a sweet request for basic toys and holiday candy. His eyes lit up at “wights!” and “pwesents!”

Not many years later, he asked, “How much (money) do we get from Santa for Christmas?” He’d figured certain things out early on but was bright enough and kind enough to keep up appearances for his younger brothers.

Still…. he also cottoned on to the idea of a max out-of-pocket to aim for as well. I didn’t love it.

Round about the third year of all of them writing a list of presents that looked closer to an Amazon order, I interceded. “I don’t like this method at all! It’s like a shopping spree, an itemized request, or a ransom note!” (The last comment being motivated by my third threatening to light the fire under Santa if he should fail to bring the robot he wanted.)

They, in turn, were confused. Christmas was a time that I told them Santa would bring about $X in presents and they enjoyed getting as close to that figure as possible. What saw was them mentally check off each item they opened Christmas morning. Once or twice, the scene was even like that of Dudley Dursley’s fit when he only had 36 presents instead of 37.


I saw no magic.

All the commercialism of Christmas sours me by July anyway, but watching my darlings murder my happy surprise moment made me want to toss the lot and have them serve up soup over at the homeless shelter.

A neighbor of mine expressed a similar sentiment. Hers, being older, didn’t enjoy the benefit of Santa anymore anyway, so she began a more frugal, service-driven Christmas. I couldn’t do the same, but knew I was hating the holiday and I didn’t want to.

Last year, I told my darling children they could make a generalized list and what they got they got. I told them I was getting them each one surprise present from parents, and one asked-for gift of $X.

This year, I’m thinking of the same. After toy commercials and Wal-Mart ads, however, that soup kitchen is looking mighty tempting.

I’m curious what others’ experiences are, and how they’ve handled it. Do your children turn into itemized gluttons December the 25th? How do you Christmas?



The Cheapest, Bestest Dinner Ideas, X


I’m cheating a bit with tonight’s meal by not using an actual recipe.

Sometimes we get a bit hassled ’round dinner time and decide to go out to eat. Since we have four children who are too old to eat off our plates anymore, these trips end up costing $60 or more each time. Yowza!

Ever since a memorable night at Olive Garden when I was last pregnant (2013), I have always opted for something at home instead. Surely, I figure, for $60 we can think of an alternative meal.

I usually make a dinner from my list of meals I’ve shared on this blog. When not in the mood for one of those (again), I have a few quick and easy meals I can get from one grocery store visit.

Cue this meal! I think of it as Sausage with Rice-A-Roni. We’ll keep working on the name.

The cost is definitely worth it! One box of Rice-A-Roni is less than $2. The broccoli: $2. The sausage? $2.50. We’re talking a meal for the entire family for $11 (because I bought two of the meat and rice). ELEVEN DOLLARS!

Polish Sausage with Rice and Broccoli


1 pkg your favorite variety of Rice-A-Roni
1 full link sausage of your favorite variety
A head or two of broccoli (or a family serving of frozen)
Butter or oil
Salt and Pepper


Microwave-safe bowl
Wax paper or EPA-safe plastic wrap
Knife for cutting broccoli
Cutting board
Wood Spatula or tongs


  1. Prepare Rice-A-Roni in the saucepan according to directions, using the butter and water.
  2. Follow directions for frying the sausage in the skillet.
  3. Rinse broccoli. Cut main parts of stalk off and discard. Place in microwave-safe bowl with some water in the bottom. Cover with wax paper and microwave for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Serve together. Season broccoli according to taste.

My kids made a face about this meal, so we may try different varieties next time. I think I’d have great success with Li’l Smokies, for example, but that raises the cost.

In all, however, making a meal for under $20 and in less than half an hour is a win in my book!

Distracted Momming

My husband has a pet peeve concerning me, and it is this: When we are having a conversation, I will turn away from him to address someone/thing else.

I do it when I’m talking on the phone to him, when I’m talking on the phone with another person and tell him a side thought, when he’s relaying the day he had at work, and when we are driving in the car.

But do you know the one time I DO NOT interrupt our tête à tête? When the children are not around to interrupt us.

If you are a parent with one child or less, you may be getting your trousers in a twist reading about my rudeness. I can hear your advice from way over here: “Just teach your kids to wait. It’s disrespectful.”

Believe me, O Clueless One, I do. And; much like my reminders to not talk with food currently chewing, not scratch their man parts so much, not hit their brothers, not interrupt me mid-lecture, and not pretty much everything that might burn the house down; they kind-of still do what they want.

When I’m feeling patient, I gently remind the boys to wait their turn (which, by the way, involves turning my attention away from my husband to do). When I’m feeling the way I almost always do, I tend to address their issue as quickly as possible because it gets them away from me. I think of it as ‘turning them off,’ like the Off button on an alarm.

Yes, they need to respect our conversation. Yes, they can wait. The problem is that children who are told to wait tend to bob right next to your elbow until you are finally done talking, and not all of the talking I do with my husband is child-appropriate.

Other moms understand -you know, the ones with two or more children (or perhaps one who is a lot more talkative than other kids). If I were to record whenever I call my sister, for example, the transcript would go as follows:

Me: Hey, so I saw you called earli- 12! Put the bat down! We don’t have bats in the car! Sorry, Sis… so you called?

Her (to a background of toddler humming): Yeah, I was just on the way to the doctor and wanted to check in. -What do you want, 2? More ‘cwackers?’ Can you say, ‘please?’

Her #2: Pweez!

Her: Okay, now we’re going to share with brother. That’s good…

Me: Yeah, we’re okay. We’re just on our way to Karate.

My #4: I’m hungry!

Me: 4, you ate before we left!

My #4: Is it dinner time yet?

Her: Dinner’s a good idea, 4! –No, 2, we’re not going to The Hot Dog Store [Costco]. We’re going to Grammy’s!

My #10, to My #7: Would you rather drink from a toilet, or swallow your farts?

Me: Hey! No potty talk!

…..And so forth.

My sister describes this Mom-addresses-child’s-interruption phenomenon as Mom Tourette’s. Yep, it’s not accurate. At the time she thought of it, though, I hadn’t been able to get a complete sentence out of her the whole conversation. I’m sure, given twenty years to re-grow our Mom Brains, we’ll have a better term for it.

For now, it’s –didn’t I tell you all to stay in bed?! Don’t make me tell you again!

Sorry. Now, where were we?